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About the Casaubon Correspondence Project

Our objectives

We will produce a critical edition of Casaubon’s correspondence during his last years in England, from his arrival in 1610 until his death in 1614. When he landed in Dover in 1610, he was at the height of his powers and his international fame; by the time of his death he was widely regarded as the most learned man in Europe. However, the scale and complexity of Casaubon's work have hampered attempts by modern scholars to make sense of his contribution to European thought. He tended to write about difficult things, and his most enduring insights are buried in his numerous, dense and lengthy commentaries. Above all, Casaubon has been neglected because his surviving correspondence is in disarray: over 40% of the letters remain in manuscript, and the rest have not been edited for three centuries. The project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, will provide a solution to this difficulty.

About 60% of the letters have been accessible for over 300 years, mainly through three publications. The first edition of Casaubon's letter (1638) organised the letters according to the correspondent, but printed almost exclusively letters written by Casaubon. A second collection of his letters appeared in 1656; another, with other works and documents relating to Casaubon, published in 1709, also contained a small number of letters addressed to Casaubon. The two later editions organised the letters chronologically. Our edition will present the letters chronologically, and in an attempt to restore Casaubon's letters to their context, it will also include all the surviving letters addressed to Casaubon, 90% of which have never been published. The cross-references at the beginning of each letter, the footnotes and the index will allow the reader to reconstruct Casaubon’s conversations.

This, we hope, will shed new light on a number of issues that may be of interest to scholars of the period. For instance, Casaubon's correspondence with Jacques-Auguste de Thou reveals interesting details about the composition of the latter's Historia, and how King James perceived it. Letters between Casaubon, Bertius and Vorstius provide a background to King James's attacks on their theological stance, and how the two attempted to convince the King of their orthodoxy. The composition of Casaubon’s two open letters, to Fronto Le Duc (1611) and to Cardinal du Perron (1612) are the subject of numerous letters between Casaubon, King James, James Montagu and Richard Neile.

Publication of these manuscripts will make sense of the previously-published portion of the correspondence; it will establish the extent and nature of Casaubon’s European network of correspondents; and it will provide a detailed context for his other printed works. Many volumes of Casaubon’s working notes and a large part of his personal library have survived in this country, and the publication of the correspondence will help researchers understand this scattered material.

The scope of the project

Casaubon’s correspondence is one of the largest unedited collections of Early Modern letters. It is a demanding set of documents and the scale and the complexity of this material have deterred researchers from systematic study. The new edition will present a well-defined element of this difficult and disorderly material in a form that will make it accessible and useful to scholars.

Dr Botley has compiled a complete inventory of Casaubon’s correspondence, and acquired copies of all the manuscripts of his letters from libraries worldwide. The inventory reveals a corpus of nearly 2400 letters written largely in Latin, with substantial elements in French and Greek. About 1100 letters were printed in 1709, and about 200 others have since been printed in different places. Over 1000 letters remain in manuscript. Such a large collection would take many years to publish in its entirety. Instead, the project will publish the correspondence from Casaubon’s final years in England, in the belief that it will make his career easier to understand and its significance harder to ignore.

The project will publish Casaubon’s correspondence from his arrival in England in 1610 until his death in 1614. The edition will be published in three volumes, and will include all the letters which Casaubon received during the period as well as those he sent. It will contain 726 letters, of which 291 (43%) have never been published. It will be the first critical edition of the remaining letters. Every letter will be equipped with an English synopsis and full apparatus.

Sources and Methodology

Our most important sources are the autographs, of which about 470 survive in the period, most of them are now in The British Library and in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Some of the letters survive as manuscript copies in Oxford, Copenhagen, Leeuwarden and Leiden. Many letters have come down to us in printed editions, most importantly, the editions of 1638, 1656 and 1709. Some of the extant manuscripts were the sources for the printed editions.

The three volumes will be published simultaneously in 2018. These volumes will be prepared using the same conventions, and to the same high standards, as the letters of Joseph Scaliger (8 vols, Geneva, Droz, 2012), published by Paul Botley and Dirk Van Miert. A sophisticated editorial tool, Classical Text Editor, will be used to prepare camera-ready copy for the new edition.